Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: Hooray for the return of weddings, and the excuse to dress up
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Kirstie Clements: Hooray for the return of weddings, and the excuse to dress up

white wedding
"Dress fabulous", but whatever you do, don't upstage the bride (or grooms). Photo: onefinedayweddingfair.com.au
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Now the event calendar is filling up again, hooray for the return of weddings and the excuse to dress up.

My friend called me in a panic last week, as she is due to attend a very swish black-tie wedding in Melbourne and the grooms keep sending her emails telling her to “dress fabulous”. They will both be wearing Tom Ford suits, so the bar is high.

A glamorous evening coat is always a reliable black-tie option. Photo: Dries von Noten

“I haven’t got time to look for a dress, I’ve got back-to-back Zoom meetings forever” she said, which meant I headed to the internet to find her an outfit, probably one of my most favourite things to do. It’s even more fun if you are spending someone else’s money. I made a pot of coffee and settled in.

My friend is in her sixties, tall and chic. She will spend money on nice labels, but part of my mission was to not break the bank. So, where do you go? In a money-no-object world, I would buy an exquisite Valentino dress, but they start at around $9000.

So I widened the net, starting with Australian designers, and it was a challenge. The two dominant trends in party dresses are metres and metres of voluminous cotton (not right for a wedding) and long slinky dresses with cut-outs (in all the wrong places).

Strapless, bare arms, huge puff sleeves? No!

Which meant we were heading into a long Sixties-style sheath or a caftan scenario. I hit the international websites for some grown-up eveningwear.

Caftan
A fringed caftan makes a statement, but it’s not good value. Photo: Oscar de la Renta

I found a silvery grey lame pleated sheath dress which was very low key and elegant, but my friend preferred a cream caftan that had long, dramatic silk fringing on the sleeves and the hem.

It was expensive, so I felt I had to be the voice of reason. Thirty minutes into dinner, the fringing on the sleeves was going to trail in the gravy, and then rest in the red wine glass. The fringe on the hem would get tangled and knot and she would quite possibly trip on it getting out of the car. Fringing is a one-night-only option, and that is not good value.

I found a lovely frothy silk floral dress that wrapped softly and ended mid-length, great with a slip, but there were no sizes available apart from small. There were a variety of sheath dresses, with inexplicable plunging necklines.

I’m a big fan of the evening coat, and I spied a glorious scarlet satin version at Dries Van Noten but it has to go over something and we didn’t have a lot of options at this point.

My solution for black tie evenings has always been trousers and silk blouses, a look which works with heels or flats, with minimal jewellery or with masses of statement necklaces and earrings. In my magazine days we always referred to dresses as ‘solution pieces’ but they are not a problem solved in a lot of cases.

“Maybe a crème tuxedo?” I suggested to my friend.

“No“ came the reply. “That’s what the groom is wearing.”